EDMONTON, Alberta - Colombia lived up to its promise that it would bring sizzle to its first appearance in the knockout stages of a Women's World Cup. But in the end, the United States brought the steak.
Second-half goals by Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd gave the Americans a 2-0 win over Colombia's feisty underdogs Monday night at Commonwealth Stadium. The U.S. team now heads to Ottawa to face China in the quarterfinals on Friday.
"This is the World Cup - I'm really satisfied with advancing," coach Jill Ellis said. "I thought we were persistent. I knew our chances were going to come."
From start to finish, the game was wide open, with Colombia showcasing its great individual skill on the ball. That delighted the team's many fans in the crowd of 19,412, who were quite a bit louder - and perhaps even more numerous - than the Americans in attendance.
After a scoreless first half, the second half came to life within two minutes of kickoff. Megan Rapinoe sprung Alex Morgan, who just barely managed to stay onside and sprinted toward Colombian goalkeeper Catalina Perez's net. Perez charged forward and upended Morgan on the line of the 18-yard box. Referee Stephanie Frappart ejected Perez and awarded the United States a penalty kick.
As Perez left the field - along with forward Ingrid Vidal, who had to depart so that Colombia could bring in replacement goalkeeper Stefany Castano - it seemed that momentum was swinging in the Americans' favor.
Then Abby Wambach smashed the ball wide of the left post.
"I just shanked it," Wambach said. "It's on me, my responsibility. I've got to bury that for my team."
The Americans' advantage finally paid off in the 53d minute, as Morgan broke the deadlock with a close-range shot that bounced off Castano and into the net. But despite being down a goal and a player, Colombia didn't let its spirits sink. At one point, the team strung together a sequence of 11 straight passes that the U.S. defense didn't touch.
"At times, the best team in the world didn't look that good as a result of the way we performed," Colombia coach Fabian Taborda said through an interpreter.
The insurance goal came in the 65th minute. Rapinoe surged into the 18-yard box and was charged into from behind by Colombia's Angel Clavijo. Frappart gave another penalty kick. This time, Lloyd stepped up and hit a no-frills strike that Castano had no chance to stop.
That Lloyd scored came as no surprise to Wambach, who admitted that she lost the right to return to the spot because of her miss.
"I could have taken it, but that's my punishment," Wambach said. "Carli gave me the opportunity to take it and I said, 'No, you get it. Bury it.' "
Overall it once again was not the kind of U.S. performance that justifies the team's status as a title contender. But at least the Americans will have another chance to show what they've got. For a while, it seemed dangerously possible that they wouldn't.
"I know the goals will come," Lloyd said. "We've just got to keep moving forward, keep plugging away, and have the confidence to know that chances will fall."